Summary: The Scriptures are trustworthy. They are the truth and they declare to us that we do not have to work to earn mercy! Our hope rests in Christ alone!
In Christ Alone, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
I read the story of a 3-year-old little girl who used the word “salvation” in a conversation one day. Her mother was surprised to hear such a word come from such a little girl so she asked her daughter if she understood what the word meant.
“I know all about it, Mommy,” she said. “We saw it at the movies.” The mother was puzzled. The only movie she had ever seen was a Disney production. “What movie?” she asked. “You know,” she replied, somewhat impatiently, “101 Salvations!”
In our Scripture reading this morning we read about the faith of Abraham. The Apostle Paul’s main point in this chapter is that salvation comes from faith alone.
As early in the Scriptures as Genesis 15:6 we read that Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness, not his works.
Abraham placed his trust – his faith – in Jehovah God and it was this faith that was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham’s faith was in God and God has provided salvation to humanity in Christ alone.
Old Testament saints like Abraham placed their trust in God and as such, in a very real sense; they were looking forward to the Cross of Christ. Though they could not have known the full nature of the work of Christ, they placed their faith in God and the Cross is the way that God redeemed them according to that faith.
As New Testament believers, we look back at the Cross of Christ. We have received the fullness of the truth that redemption is found in Christ alone. While Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness, we know that Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness only because God was to send a savior.
The 20th Century Pastor, A. W. Tozer, once wrote, “Absolute candor is an indispensable requisite to salvation.” This morning it is my desire to be plain spoken and candid as we examine the faith of Abraham.
I am convinced that as we do, we will discover that the true object of faith for all humanity is Jesus Christ. There are not, in fact, 101 salvations. Faith, not works, is the way to righteousness and salvation is found in Christ alone.
In verse 2 of this chapter the Apostle Paul makes a clear distinction between faith and works. We do not work to earn a right standing with God. When we enter into faith in Jesus Christ, we inherit all of the blessings of the New Covenant.
We enter into a covenant relationship with God through Christ. It is not that our faith saves us it is that our faith is like a road which leads us to the Cross where we are washed clean in the blood of Christ’s atonement.
In the church we use the word atonement a lot but we seldom define it. Think of it this way, if you break up the word into three parts it says at-one-ment. On the Cross Christ made atonement – at-one-ment – for our sin.
Romans 5:8-13 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (NASB)
But perhaps you have heard the lie that the biblical account of Christ is in no way unique among the world’s religions. Perhaps you have even been told that it is just a nice story with the power to encourage. Maybe you have observed that so many from inside and outside of the church have abandoned the biblical teaching that it is only by the shed blood of Christ that we are made at one with God.
Before you believe that lie, allow me to share with you some of the differences between the authentic grace of the Cross of Jesus Christ and the counterfeit grace of the world’s religions.
The Qur’an does speak of the forgiveness of a compassionate and merciful Allah. But all of its promises in regard to anything resembling grace are only made to the meritorious. In Islam only those people whose merits have been weighed in Allah’s scales are entitled to mercy, whereas the gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving.
You see, the symbol of genuine grace is the cross of Christ, not the scales of earned favor. When grace must be earned it is not grace at all. The 4th Century Christina theologian, Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.”